A divorce typically derails any plans you made with your former spouse, including a potential estate plan. An estate plan comprises legal documents outlining the disposition of your property after your death. Even if you share a child with your former spouse, you will likely want to change certain aspects of your estate plan once you finalize the divorce. You may also consider updating things like beneficiary designations on life insurance policies. 

Your estate plan does not update automatically to reflect a divorce. Instead, contact an estate planning and divorce attorney to help make changes to reflect your wishes.

Estate Planning Before Divorce

No one starts their marriage expecting it to end with divorce. Many couples create an estate plan after they get married or have a child. A basic estate plan consists of the following documents:

  • Last will and testament,
  • Advance healthcare directive,
  • A durable power of attorney, and
  • Beneficiary designations.

A will outlines your end-of-life wishes and appoints a personal representative to administer your estate. An advance healthcare directive appoints a healthcare agent to make medical decisions on your behalf if you become incapacitated. A durable power of attorney lets you select an agent to manage your financial affairs either immediately or upon your incapacity.

Another option is to create a trust and avoid the probate process. Beneficiary designation forms let you designate someone to receive certain assets upon your death. Probate is the court-supervised process of verifying your will and distributing property according to its terms. 

Estate Planning After Divorce

Altering your estate plan is typically not a priority after someone files for divorce. Once you get back on your feet, you should update certain aspects of your estate plan. A tragic accident or unexpected illness may happen at any time, leaving you unable to make changes.

In most cases, the divorce court will issue a temporary restraining order that prevents you from making any material changes until the final decree is issued. The restraining order prevents either spouse from concealing assets during the proceedings.

After a divorce, you may need to update the beneficiary designation on your retirement accounts, payable on death accounts, and life insurance policies to someone other than your former spouse. Although some accounts will update the beneficiary for you, doing so on your own can limit any contests.

If you neglect to update your will before your death, Mississippi law requires the document to be understood as if the former spouse and their relatives who are not related to the deceased pre-deceased them. That means they are entirely excluded from the disposition of property.

For example, consider a woman who signed a will leaving all her property to her husband and son. The woman and her husband subsequently finalize their divorce. The woman dies before she can change her estate plan. Because of the divorce, the law treats the woman’s husband as if he died before she did. Therefore, the woman’s entire estate goes to her son.

An estate planning attorney can walk you through the changes you should make following a divorce.

Does My Ex Receive My Property When I Die If I Don’t Have a Will?

If you die without a will in Mississippi, your property is transferred based on intestate succession laws. If you are married and die without children, your spouse inherits your entire estate. If you secure a divorce, your estate passes to your parents. If your parents predeceased you, your estate goes to your siblings.

If you are married and die with one child, your spouse inherits one-half of your estate, and your child inherits the other half. If you have multiple children, your spouse and children inherit your estate in equal shares. If you secure a divorce, your children inherit your estate in equal shares.

Therefore, the state recognizes a person does not want their property to go to someone after getting a divorce.

Have Questions About Estate Planning and Divorce? Contact a Lawyer at Harris Law Firm Today

An estate planning lawyer can help you update your estate plan and protect your assets after a divorce. Harris Law Firm has provided sophisticated legal advice to clients for more than four decades. A team member will meet with you to review your case and determine how to serve your interests. Do not wait until it is too late to update your end-of-life documents. Contact us today to talk to an estate planning attorney.

Author Photo

Noel Harris

W. Noel Harris, founder of Harris Law Firm, PLLC, is a distinguished personal injury attorney with a Juris Doctor from the University of Mississippi School of Law. Since 1981, he has been a dedicated member of the Plaintiff’s bar, specializing in personal injury, medical malpractice, wrongful death, and products liability. Known for his profound legal knowledge and tenacious client representation, Noel has over three decades of experience, yielding numerous million and multi-million dollar verdicts and settlements. His commitment to justice is reflected in his memberships in prestigious legal associations, including the Mississippi and Arkansas Bars, Mississippi Association for Justice, American Association for Justice, and the National Trial Lawyers Association. Recognized as a Top 100 Trial Lawyer and holding an AV Preeminent Rating from Martindale-Hubbell, Noel’s expertise and ethical standards set him apart as a leading advocate for accident victims in Greenville, MS. Read

More Articles By Noel Harris


1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars
(No Ratings Yet)